An early trip this week with our featured author due to the fact I'll be in Nashville on Friday. However, today in Iowa it looks to be another very warm day, so I'm off to meet Rodney Robbins in Denmark this morning. While doing the interview, we're touring the National Museum, looking at the Gundestrup Cauldron and other Celtics relics. Then we're seeking out a open air cafe by the canal. Apparently, he has a hankering for some Southern style tea and, as you'll see in a bit, gluten free cookies.
1. Who is Rodney Robbins and what makes you the most fascinating person in your home town of Maiden, North Carolina?
I write paranormal fiction, plays and musicals. Who else would write a book about an elf queen hiding out as a school nurse, a dramatic comedy about a man with multiple personalities (one of which may be a ghost), and a musical about a reluctant porn star and a mad scientist looking for true love?
2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?
Most people don’t know that I live with three chronic illnesses: migraine headaches (2-3 per week—that’s a lot), Celiac Disease (an “allergy” to wheat and other common grains) and Periodic Paralysis (a rare muscle disorder that causes spells of weakness or outright paralysis). I think these are part of “Macha’s Curse.” There’s an ancient Irish legend about how the goddess Macha, who was annoyed with her drunken husband, cursed the men of Ulster says, “May your strength fail you when you need it most.” I think I’ve been caught up in the tail end of that curse.
3. What interested you in becoming a writer rather than something else such as a cobbler?
I was working on a kitchen cabinet assembly line one day, and my mind was racing and worrying and fretting over improbable or impossible scenarios when a little voice in my head said, “Well, if you’re going to imagine this kind of crap all day, maybe you should try and get paid for it.” Isn’t that what we writers do? Worry, scribble, and worry about what we scribbled?
4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?
I’d love to meet Steven Koontz for dinner on the beach in Hawaii. It would be my pleasure to treat him, and his wife, to a couple of nice shark steaks and some flowery drinks. Then I’d ask him how much of his own personality comes through in his character Odd Thomas. I’d also love to ride my Honda Goldwing motorcycle to the Rock Store (a famous biker hangout and restaurant in California) and have dinner with my boyhood hero Rod Serling (creator of “The Twilight Zone”). I’d ask him for tips on turning out so many wonderful teleplays, and pass along a cryptic warning about the dangers of smoking. (Serling died during heart surgery at age 50).
5. If I were stranded on Papua New Guinea (or suffering a four hour layover at the Heathrow Airport), why would your book(s) be great company?
Well, the books are still being written, so I suggest your best bet for entertainment would be to check out one of my plays. If you were stuck of an evening in Papua New Guinea, I would suggest you scoot over to Port Moresby and check out my psychological dramedy “House of Many Rooms.” It’s the story of a young man struggling with multiple personality disorder. Dissociative Identity Disorder sort of runs in my family and this play takes an honest but humorous look at dealing with multiples. (After you see the show, don’t tell anyone it’s really a ghost story.)
Now, if you were at Heathrow Airport, outside London, you might be able to squirt over to the West End and see my sexy, musical comedy “Big Feet, Big Love.” This show is a blast. It’s about a reluctant porn star and a mad scientist looking for true love. It includes a Real Woman, two witchy sisters, a half dozen hot poll dancers, The Leather Lovers (Eros and Psyche), a car crash, a restaurant fire, a reanimation sequence and much more. It’s good, clean, sexy fun--for adults only.
6 Share the Robbins process of writing in regards to: idea and character development, story outline, research (do you Google, visit places/people or make it up on the spot?), writing schedule, editing,
and number of rewrites.
Here is an example. I’m currently working on a middle grade paranormal fiction novel called “Nurse Brandt’s Waiting Room.” Nurse Brandt has been with me for a long time—over ten years. I knew she was an elf queen hiding in plain sight. I knew she used dreams to help treat her young patients. The story really started to come together when I was driving along in a snow storm and suddenly had an image of her standing on a Carolina beach in her chain mail—a storm wind ripping at her cloak. I saw her very clearly, staring out to sea and crying. In that instant, I knew her entire back story, why she was crying, who she was showing this image to, and what she wanted more than anything in the world.
Then I did character biographies, scene cards, two different written outlines, two synopses and a final set of scene cards. Now, I’m using the scene cards to write the actual manuscript.
I like to write first thing in the morning, before I go to work. Once I’ve done that, I can concentrate on being a good husband, father and employee without worrying that there is something important I’m supposed to be doing.
Rewrites—well, it takes as many as it takes. My first draft is written quickly, about 2 pages an hour. Then I’ll rewrite a bit to make it read well aloud. Then I might read sections to my wire and son. When the whole novel is done, I’ll go back and make corrections and do what most people call editing.
I don’t do line edits. Not my job. That’s what professional editors are for. They need the work, and they’re welcome to it. I can’t spell and won’t agonize for hours over which word is the best substitute/alternative/choice/possibility for “forgotten.” Editing—it’s best left to the professionals.
7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”
If you don’t know where to begin writing, it’s because you don’t know your story yet. Stop writing immediately and start dreaming. Flesh out some character biographies. Write down your elevator pitch. Follow your characters around for awhile, or let them follow you. Don’t start writing the manuscript again till you’re just bubbling over with things to say. Also, don't be afraid to start with what you know. Write the opening later, it's not going anywhere.
8. I saw an amusing t-shirt the other day which read “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?
I saw a T-shirt once that read, “Every job worth doing is worth doing poorly.” Think about it. If the job is to give shoes to 10,000 African orphans, and you only manage to put shoes on 500 of them, well, that’s 500 kids walking around in new shoes. That ain't bad.
9a. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing?
Stop writing? Are you nuts? I can’t stop now. I’ve got three mystery series to write, four new musicals, a second middle grade series, an epic science fiction trilogy plus three picture books to write. I won’t be able to stop till I’m 80.
9b. What’s next for Rodney Robbins?
It will take a few months to write the first “Nurse Brandt” novel. Then I might jump ahead to a murder mystery set in uptown Charlotte. Of course, I’m starting to do more publicity so keep an ear out for me on your radio.
10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?
For the plays, musicals and theater publicity tips visit http://www.MyNewPlay.com. For more about my paranormal fiction, plus writing tips and stories, visit http://www.RodneyRobbins.com.